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Blood. 2009 Oct 22;114(17):3668-76. doi: 10.1182/blood-2009-06-227041. Epub 2009 Aug 24.

ABO blood group glycans modulate sialic acid recognition on erythrocytes.

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Glycobiology Research and Training Center, Departments of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA.


ABH(O) blood group polymorphisms are based on well-known intraspecies variations in structures of neutral blood cell surface glycans in humans and other primates. Whereas natural antibodies against these glycans can act as barriers to blood transfusion and transplantation, the normal functions of this long-standing evolutionary polymorphism remain largely unknown. Although microbial interactions have been suggested as a selective force, direct binding of lethal pathogens to ABH antigens has not been reported. We show in this study that ABH antigens found on human erythrocytes modulate the specific interactions of 3 sialic acid-recognizing proteins (human Siglec-2, 1918SC influenza hemagglutinin, and Sambucus nigra agglutinin) with sialylated glycans on the same cell surface. Using specific glycosidases that convert A and B glycans to the underlying H(O) structure, we show ABH antigens stabilize sialylated glycan clusters on erythrocyte membranes uniquely for each blood type, generating differential interactions of the 3 sialic acid-binding proteins with erythrocytes from each blood type. We further show that by stabilizing such structures ABH antigens can also modulate sialic acid-mediated interaction of pathogens such as Plasmodium falciparum malarial parasite. Thus, ABH antigens can noncovalently alter the presentation of other cell surface glycans to cognate-binding proteins, without themselves being a direct ligand.

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